Quite often I get asked if having pepper spray blown back by the wind is a valid concern. Is it a concern? Yes. Can it be mitigated? Yes. Should the possibility of pepper spray being blown back at you stop you from carrying it? Absolutely not.
By combining the proper type of pepper spray for the environment and simple tactics, you can minimize the risk of blowback.
Pepper Spray Pattern: Stream vs. Cone
Most pepper spray used for personal protection is dispensed in one of two patterns, either a stream or a cone.
A stream pattern is a concentrated stream that has a farther reach than a cone pattern. The disadvantage is that pepper spray only covers a small area of the target. A stream pattern is less susceptible to wind blowback as opposed to a cone pattern.
A cone pattern will project pepper spray to a wider area of the target. The disadvantage is that the pepper spray will travel a shorter distance and be more susceptible to blowback, when compared to a stream pattern.
The good news is that most manufacturers pattern their sprays in a hybrid between the stream and cone. The result is a small cone that has decent range, adequate coverage of the target area and reduced risk of wind blowback.
Pepper Spray Type: Gel vs. Foam
If you spend a lot of time in the wind or inside, then you should consider using a gel or foam pepper spray.
Both gel and foam pepper spray are good at preventing cross contamination, especially when used indoors. The pepper spray is less likely to become airborne and affect those who do not come into direct contact with the spray.
Both foam and gel pepper spray resist blowback from wind a lot better than stream and cone sprays. Gel is heavier and travels a greater distance than foam. However, foam dispenses in a substantially wider pattern than gel.
Tactics to Minimize Pepper Spray Blowback
There is an old saying, “If you’re not moving, you’re an easy target.” Any time you’re under an attack, you should step off line of the attack and move to the side.
If the wind is blowing into your face when you deploy pepper spray, moving to the side will minimize the risk of getting hit by blowback. Regardless of whether or not wind is present, you should be moving!
The chances of being severely affected by pepper spray being blown back in your direction are minimal at best. Modern pepper spray is dispensed forcefully in a tight cone that travels a fair distance and is resistant to all but the strongest of winds.
If you are truly worried about blowback, carry a foam or gel pepper spray.
The bottom line is that pepper spray is one of the most effective non-lethal weapons. The small chance that wind will blow pepper spray back at you should not keep you from carrying it.